Thursday, 18 October 2018

Non-birdy wildlife at Marton Mere followed by a good bird day there

The Safari was able to get an unexpected sneaky visit to Marton Mere yesterday morning.There were a few birds about the first notable one being a Cetti's Warbler in one of the ponds at the wetland on the way in. That was followed by a Sparrowhawk circling over the north western corner of the reserve. A few Skylarks were going over calling but unseen the continued on and off all morning, no idea how many were involved all together. 
We decided to go round anti-clockwise taking us to the Feeding Station first where it was quiet with only two Pheasants and two Chaffinches. A volunteer was mowing the path edges behind us and the noise was upsetting Monty so we high tailed it out of there, wasn't owt happening anyway. We'd just got out through the caravan site gate when four Redpolls (MMLNR #82) went over. They'd come from over the mere so hadn't been parked up in the Alders behind the Feeding Station. 
Moving further down the bank we didn't see much on interest until we came upon a smashed up mushroom.
Why do folk do that - fear of the unknown we guess going back to the 'all mushrooms are edible - some only once'. But if no-one's going to eat it why smash it up with a stick? Some folk are absolute numpties, so disassociated with wildlife and nature and sadly that's the norm now.
No more than a couple of yards away were two Shaggy Inkcaps which must have popped up after Mr/s Destruction had gone otherwise they'd no doubt be smashed up too despite being edible - and good...although we weren't going to take a bite out of these as they were very much in a dog zone!
While we were getting down n dirty with the Shaggy Inkcaps Monty's nose had taken him off to our left and he was pulling hard on his lead making us take notice of him again - good job we did he'd pulled himself within range of this Fox do-do and was just about to drop his shoulder for a good old roll in in it...Nooooooooo - only an idiot would have a dog!!! Fortunately we managed to drag him away from it before it was smeared all over his back - why do they do that - YUKKKKK
From the fence we could see there wasn't muxh by way of waterfowl or gulls in front of the Fylde Bird Club Hide so we opted to keep moving instead of going in, good move cos if we had have gone in we'd have missed the two Swallows scudding across the grassed area going westwards at a rate of knots.
With Redpolls and Swallows of interest spotted already we thought it best to call in at the visitor centre and report them officially. On the way up there we saw a cluster of Common Inkcaps - unsmashed and yet these can give you a seriously dicky tummy if eaten and you have alcohol in your system...best avoided unless your a total tee-totaller.
After a quick chat at the VC we continued our circuit. At the gate by the bridge over the outflow stream we found an interesting pellet sat on top of the rubbish bin. It's about the size of our thumbnail and almost spherical. We're not sure what it might have been produced by, Little Owl, Blackbird (bit big for one of those?) something else??? The snail is intriguing, we're no good at snail ID is it a terrestrial species or is it from the adjacent stream?
Some of the black bits look very much like beetle elytra (wing cases) which would point towards Little Owl, or maybe Kestrel perhaps - can anyone shed any further light on the ID? So far on Twitter we've had no response and on Facebook a 'Big Gun' is gunning for Little Owl. Thoughts anyone...over to you.
Our walk around most of the rest of the reserve was pretty uneventful apart from a couple of small flocks of Pink Footed Geese dropping in to the fields to the east but landing out of sight behind a rise in the ground and a handful more Cetti's Warblers scattered around the site. When we reached the path to the Viewing Platform we spied this rather impressive fungus at the side of the path, must be 18 inches end to end - a real beast! No idea what it is though.
At the Viewing Platform we hoped for a Bittern but it wasn't to be, 'just' a small flock of Long Tailed Tits working their way through the top of the recently pruned Willow tree to the left of the bench - great stuff as there is now a sweeping visita right around the northwest corner of the reedbed - just right for spotting any Bitterns popping up out of there and heading towards you.
Just as we were leaving a huge pall of thick black smoke came up from behind the barn just beyond the reserve's eastern boundary - doesn't look good but who ya gonna call? Fire brigade or the Environment Agency? Probably shoulda called the latter.
Framers eh? Sometimes we think they dshouldn't be allowed in the countryside - and we're from farming stock!
The walk back to the car gave us the same number of Goldcrests as we had all last weekend at Spurn - one, in the allotment hedge at the wetlands.

This morning dawned cold and clear, the sun hasn't risen now when we're out on Monty's early morning walk and today there was a crisp frost on the grass and car windscreens. As ever we look for the Peregrine on its usual (now unusual) perch but yet again no sign of it. But high up in the cold steel grey ether we heard another Brambling, none for 14 1/2 years then two in a couple of days! P1 #51)
Coming back on to the main road and looking down the hill we could see a huge swirl of Jackdaws, about 100 of them which we guessed must have roosted somewhere nearby.
Back at Base Camp we were pleased to find about half a dozen Blackbirds in the garden feasting on next door's Rowan berries and our Pyracantha bush.
Blackbirds we expect, maybe not as many as six but they are daily visitors but Starlings are another kettle of fish altogether, very rarely do they come in to the garden so to see three drop in begs the question are they local birds or migrants from afar that have possibly traveled on the coat tails of the Blackbirds...you decide.
Either way it was great to see them in the garden.
A flock of about 85 Jackdaws went over going south west, almost definitely not the 100 we'd seen earlier.
And with the sun shining we decided on taking Monty for another spin round Marton Mere. The walk started as yesterday with a/the Cetti's Warbler at the wetlands. We'd not gone far when we heard the unmistakable woosh woosh sound of Mute Swans' wings carving up the air. Two of them came low overhead making for Stanley Park lake.
So close we could only fit one of them in the frame.
We opted to give Monty a bit more of a run before putting him on his lead so went round the outside of the reserve along the bridlepath, here a patch of sunshine had warmed the place up enough for a Common Darter to fly past and alight on the fence to do a bit of basking and catch a few rays.
We carried on on our way and into the reserve (with Monty now on his lead) and set off along the embankment where we met TS. We'd gone that way on the off chance we might see the Bittern fly over the reedbed and/or hear the pings of a fresh-in Bearded Tit, there's been a bit of an influx along the north west coast line and our reed bed is as good as anyone elses!
While we were chatting we both saw a large black bird we both at first glance thought might be a Raven but when it banked it turned into our first Marsh Harrier here since before 2010. Unfortunately it stayed down the far end before dropping in to the reedbed somewhere near the scrape putting about 60 Teal to flight. We hoped that when it got up again it would come our way and we'd get some spectacular views of it wafting over the reedbed in front of us - no such luck it went down the far end again and then set off high to the north east and away.
We also noted a steady passage of Skylarks and a few Chaffinches from our spot on the embankment. Behind us were more Pink Footed Geese than we'd had yesterday and more still were going over further east.
TS went on his way and we stopped a few more minutes to watch a Sparrowhawk speed by and listen to Water Rails squalling and Cetti's Warblers exploding but not a peep out of any Bearded Tits that might have been but probably weren't lurking in the reeds.
We followed on in TS's footsteps passing a family who think it's acceptable to come in to a nature reserve and take away the birds and animals winter food supply - armed with a long pole to reach the Apples no-one else could reach - how many hundredweight of invaluable winter food is lost to these numpties each autumn - all for the sake of saving a few pence at the supermarket. We're only taking  two or three they told us, each with one of those large 'indestructible' carrier bags in their hands.
Tw*ts
Fortunately the morning picked up soon after that when we heard the soft 'peeuu' call of a Bullfinch and then watched a female lift out of the scrub fly a short distance and then drop back in again. That's the first sighting since early April. 
Our offer of a king sized Mars Bar for the person who gets a decent pic of one still stands, got to be better than our two paltry efforts so far to get that prize though.
Then we had 'bad news' from MMcG we'd just missed a Jay and a Bittern he told us, but we did get on to the two Whooper Swans that were cruising round the far end of the mere, our first actually on the water for several years.
We hung around chatting to the Ranger and volunteers for a while hoping the Bittern might show itself again - it didn't and they disappeared in to the reedbed to remove a substantial Willow growing on a bit of an island so went back towards the Feeding Station. We'd only gone a few steps when BOOM a flock of nine Coal Tits flew over us and went across to the trees in the caravan site - awesome as those over the other side of the pond say. No other species were in the flock and nine is at least six more than we've ever seen on site before!
Best of the rest were the shed loads of Jackdaws, must seen 1000 all morning up to now and a Great Spotted Woodpecker going east over the wetlands.

It was quieter back at Base Camp after lunch but thee were still a few Jackdaws on the move. After the school traffic had died down we took Monty out to the park, Patch 1, but without a camera - shoulda took one as as soon as we got there we spotted a Jay coming in from the east, very very seldom do we see them round here.
Sparrrowhawk and a Small White butterfly were best of the rest until we got home and had a Red Admiral perched up on one of our down pipes at Base Camp.

Where to next? An all day safari over to the Southside with CR tomorrow

In the meantime let us know who's reappeared in your outback

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Patch delivers

The Safari has had a bit of a purple patch on Patch 1, Base Camp and sort of at Chat Alley too.
It can be a bit of an anti-climax coming back to the west coast after even a fairly quiet weekend over on the 'other side'. Don't get us wrong though we have our spectacles over this side too, you really can't beat a red dawn sky filled to the brim with Pink Footed Geese but that east coast is just so excitingly unpredictable.
The other day we were out on our early morning with Monty when we came across a small flock of about 10 Long Tailed Tits and a couple of Blue and Great Tits with them but also with them we heard a familiar sound last heard when one dropped over our shoulder and into a small Hawthorn bush near the Spurn Visitor Centre which promptly disappeared in to thick cover not to be seen again. We kept our eye on the flock moving through the remains of the old hedgerow but couldn't see the maker of the calls no matter how we tried. It was in there somewhere but we just couldn't get on to it. Still pretty awesome to get a Yellow Browed Warbler on the Patch. Our 50th species for the Patch this year. Other than that we've not seen much on the Patch recently and to be fair we've only really visited this first field early doors for quite some time.
An afternoon out with Wifey and Monty up country had us searching the woodland and riverside paths for any fungi that might have popped up after the recent wet weather. Sadly we found very little just a few manky bits of Turkeytail or similar bracket type fungi. In the end the best we could find was a stump with a cluster of Candlesnuff Fungi protruding from the top.
The woods weren't all that autumnal and were still mostly swathed with green rather than the rich colours of autumn. Almost right the way round the circuit we chanced upon a golden Norway Maple, at last a bit of colour.
Only a few yards further on another Norway Maple was still very much 'in the green'. Back at the car park another was bedecked in bright red leaves, some of which were lying on the grass after the viciousness of Storm Callum.
Yesterday we had a day in the garden with CP. Mostly we had our heads down cutting and stacking wood, preparing the pond for the winter, get down n dirty with a blocked drain and the like so we didn't notice too much but a sneezy wheeze heard high in the clear blue ether was the first ever Brambling (Garden #37) anywhere near Base Camp and then not too long afterwards that was followed by a couple of Rooks (Garden #38) heading south west, the first we've seen over the garden for three years. Minutes later a big flock of about forty Jackdaws going south east. Rarely see anything like that number over Base Camp.
The warm afternoon sun also brought out a Red Admiral and a Speckled Wood at Mossom Nature Field on Monty's afternoon romp later on. More than enough Wasps were on the wing too. Scary beasts that have hospitalised us on too many occasions!

Where to next? A safari somewhere out in the wilds on Friday followed by another a wee bit further afield at the weekend but will it be northwards or over on the Southside?

In the meantime let us know who's high up in the ether in your outback.


Saturday, 13 October 2018

The (almost) annual sojourn to Spurn

The Safari was joined by the main man LCV last week for our 'boys' long weekend to the East coast. As he was driving up to us from the Midlands we arranged to meet at the RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh reserve where local birder SD had recently come across a couple of American Wigeons and a nice selection of other waterfowl and waders including a distant Little Stint.
There weren't many Wigeon on the first pool west of the car park but scanning through them one female stood out as 'odd'.  Much paler, almost sandy, than the others around it and with no hint of red tones on its head which was rather 'salt n peppery' with that obvious dark eye smudge. It looked a good candidate for a female American Wigeon but was it? We took some pics but they weren't up to much in the dull, windy conditions and the bird quite distant.
LCV had a twitter conversation with SD and he agreed it was the bird he'd seen and thought was probably a female American Wigeon although he'd not been able to see the pure white underwings nor had any confirmation that anyone else had either. 
Suddenly a huge roar when up and a jet from the base across the river came arcing overhead.
It sent up an immense flock of ducks from further down the reserve, most of which were Wigeon. They went past us and settled down at the far west end of the reserve so off we went to try our luck at finding the drake American Wigeon.
Most of the Wigeon had gone down in the long grass and were out of sight so we had to make do with a gawp at the still fairly exotic site of Great White Egrets, of which there were three, and numerous Little Egrets which weren't counted but well over 10 were present. 
It's almost an odd day on the coastal marshes if you see a Heron before a Little Egret now. There was just one Heron present and for a brief moment we had all three species in the frame together but failed to press the shutter before the Heron had a go at the Great White and ruined the scene. LCV caught the moment but wasn't able to get the Little Egret in frame too.
Try as we might we couldn't find the drake American Wigeon among the throng of Wigeon that were popping their heads up from the long grass to check there were no predators about. Time to move on and head back to Base Camp to make preparations for the long drive early in the morning. 
We contacted our American friends in the Challenge showing the pics of the female and they reckon it looks good for one so we've added it (167) on the presumtion it arrived with the drake and will eventually be proven to be the real thing. It does look very very like females photographed by some of our American friends for their Challenge.
And so we set off an hour later than hoped...someone who shall be nameless overslept, but it didn't really matter as our drive across the country was a wet and windy (from the wrong direction) one with the thick cloud making dawn a bit later than it should have been.
First stop was the little hide at Kilnsea Wetlands. No point taking the camera out as although morning had properly broken it was still quite dark and wet. To see through the hide windows they had to be opened but that meant the wind blew the rain in, it was like someone was stood outside throwing buckets of water in at us!
We gave it about an hour before driving down to the Warren and bunking in to the seawatching hide, where we were lucky to get a seat as it was busy in there, lots of folk sheltering from the rain even though the sea wasn't that busy. Small parties of Wigeon and Teal were passing southwards while small flocks of Common Scoters, a dribble of Gannets and distant auks went mostly northwards. A distant Sooty Shearwater was by far the best bird followed by a close in Arctic Skua and a distant Manx Shearwater. A Snipe, a handful of Meadow Pipits and a couple of Skylarks came in off the sea. When we win the lottery we're going to buy SE a much bigger hide to live in and maybe a heater too.
The rain seemed to be easing a bit and news was filtering through of migrant thrushes, mostly Redwings but a few Fieldfares and occasional Ring Ouzels too so we gave up seawatching and headed in to the open and the wet. News then broke of a probable Black Throated Thrush with a flock of Redwings but like most of the other birds they kept moving rather than stopping for a rest and feed, it was only seen by a couple of watchers and remains a 'missed'. Looking around the church, Kew and Cliff Farm it was obvious there weren't many grounded migrants about despite the grotty weather, just a few Redwings, Blackbirds and the odd Brambling or two, a Ring Ouzel was reported feeding on windfall Apples at Cliff Farm but didn't stick around for us.
We broke the 'unwritten rule' and had a cuppa in the new visitor centre - who decided that was a good place for it?????????? The brew was warm and welcome, good value at just a quid and served by very friendly staff who may or may not be aware of the controversies surrounding their workplace. There were briefly a couple of Bramblings at the feeders below the panoramic window which we failed to get a proper look at. Unfortunately the view of the feeders and the panorama of the lighthouse and Spurn Point will be obscured in a few years time as the bank below the window has been planted with Blackthorn which although will be great habitat to replace what has been lost will totally obscure the view without constant management this defeating its object as replacement habitat - duhhhh...who makes these decisions??????? 
Just outside the VC is the Canal Scrape so we had to have a look and as ever there was a Jack Snipe, just sometimes they are out in plain view - very unusual for them - but today was the usual fairly distant and obscured views, still better than most places you'll see them though.
PYLC 168
True to form it was doing that up and down 'sewing machine' action all the time it was feeding -we affectionately named him/her Bob the Bobber. A bit of video with some Boom Boom Boom rave music added could have been fun if anyone had the inclination.
Not much else was seen from the hide just small numbers of Skylarks and Redwings passing over, the latter occasionally alighting briefly in the bushes on the far side of the pool. 
Time to try somewhere else and as the tide was on the up we decided to head back to the wetland. Quite a few Redshank had come in off the estuary and there was a bit of a gull roost building up where we found a nice selection of Mediterranean Gulls, seven adults, two 2nd winters and a 1st winter, all mostly tucked up half hidden behind a low bank. Other waders included a smattering of Dunlin, a Greenshank and four Black Tailed Godwits but no sign of the Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper that had been reported regularly over the previous few days. No sign of the Hen Harrier either that had also been present for a few days but we later learned that someone had seen it sometime during the day. With not a lot of excitement and daylight beginning to fade we moved round to Sammy's Point to see if there were any Short Eared Owls quartering the paddocks. 
The horse paddocks were devoid of birds but we did have a couple of Whimbrels and a Curlew on the sea defence rocks waiting for the tide to drop. Wandering down to the scrubby area it was evident it was fairly quiet but another birder staking out a clump of bushes told us he'd heard a Ring Ouzel cchacking away in there and indeed as he was speaking it did it again. We had a good look with him from all angles but couldn't see it in the dense vegetation. We left him to it and wandered back along the top bank. With a bit of Redwing activity and a few quick flits noted we went in to the north end of the scrub where we got the fright of our lives when we nearly trod on a snoozing Roe Deer which took a couple of startled steps before leaping the pretty wide ditch on the landward side pf the scrub. We'd hazard a guess no one had been that way for a while. We also inadvertently disturbed a dozen or more Redwings from the scratty hedge on the far side of the ditch, they took off northwards and then some way behind them and not from the bushes came another, it looked a little smaller and getting our bins on it saw it wasn't a Redwing, no red wing no eye-stripe but was plain and streaky, if it had called Richard's Pipit would now be in our notebook we guess.
Our birder friend from earlier had now reappeared some way behind us after working his way throughthe scrub and was beckoning us over. He'd found a Yellow Browed Warbler, which we thoughht was a pretty good find considering the absolute dearth of Goldcrests and easterly winds. It had gone into cover but just a couple of minutes later worked its way out to the front of the bush again.
Chuffed that Spurn Bird Obs used this pic on their report for the day
Cracking little birds absolute beauties, but the lack of easterlies meant that these tiny waifs have flown at least 300 miles across the North Sea against the wind - how do they do that and how far west are they now breeding - western half of European Russia or even Fennoscandinavia??? Really good to get one for our Challenge at #169.
We missed a quickly disappearing Short Eared Owl that perched on a post in the rough paddock then flew up river.
With that news it was now time for tea so off we went up country a few miles to our digs.
Sunday dawned calm and clear, LCV's motor even had a load of frost to scrape off the windscreen before we could depart. With the clear skies and lack of wind we were hopeful that there may be some freshly dropped migrants around although it was also a worry that it was too clear and still and they may just go over at some height and not be seen. But this is Spurn so you never know quite what's going to happen...
We parked up by the church and walked the lane to the Bluebell, no all closed down. Nothing much happening, The churchyard was quiet too so we had a look up the village, not a lot at all and not much overhead either, there were rumours of Ring Ouzel in one of the gardens. We waited around but it didn't show although we got a few glimpses of another Yellow Browed Warbler, one of a record breaking 39 for the day here, and were able to point the camera at one of the local House Sparrows. It comes to something when House Sparrows are the best birds to aim the lens at in this part of the world
A wander down the canal gave us a lot more Reed Buntings than we'd seen on Saturday but were they new in or just not hunkered down against the weather today?
A Roe Deer buck broke cover towards the river but from where it came from there was a birder looking at a patch of Sea Buckthorn, we wondered what he might have found. 
There was some interest in the bush in the form of a few Reed Buntings, a Song Thrush and a flock of Starlings. Looking in to the light wasn't good but one of the Starlings didn't look right. We got LCV and his scope on to it and Bingo - best bird of the day/weekend was there, a juvenile Rose Coloured Starling (#170).
We watched it for a few minutes and got a few more birders on to it.
It hung around the bushes often disappearing out of sight for several minutes at a time. Eventually someone came along with a radio and told us no news had broken from the earlier person on the radios or pagers so it looked very much like it was 'our' bird. We moved around a bit to get better light as he put out the news over his radio. From all directions birders could be seen coming our way. This is the first time in about 25 years of visiting here we've found a bird everyone else wanted to see.
We left them to it and went off to see if we could see the elusive showing infrequently Barred Warbler down at the Warren. We had a bit of wait and watched this Kestrel hunting nearby which may be a reason the warbler was keeping its head down.
Our patience was tested to the limit and we gave up to try to get a pic of the Bramblings that were knocking around. We just couldn't get on them at all but we did make our way back to the screen and were lucky that nearly everyone else had wandered off and left plenty of space for us...and for a brief moment the Barred Warbler (#171) came in to view low down in a small Sea Buckthorn bush. Better views were had in the bins and really good to see one of these close up as its a species we very seldom come across.
It did a few circuits, flying across the lane a couple of times and showed well in the top of the 'tall' bushes by the old Observatory building. Great stuff
From there we had another visit to the wetlands to see if the tide had pushed anything in. Plenty of Redshanks and with them was a Spotted Redshank and dodgy Dunlin no one could turn into anything more exciting. Fewer Mediterranean Gulls today but one of the 1st winters was out in the open having a bath but as soon as we raised the camera it took flight.
We had a look at Beacon Ponds where there were quite a number of Grey Plovers roosting along with a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits. A Brent Goose was there too, there weren't many of them around for us this visit. Still no sign of the Hen Harrier or any Short Eared Owls though. We did think we may have found an owl when we saw a Black Headed Gull dive bombing something flying low in the grass, 'just' a Kestrel in the end. 
It was amazing how often folk mentioned the mobile Great White Egret over the weekend and it caused a bit of stir when it flopped over the sea defences at the end of the pond and began catching very small fish - we've got used to seeing them all over the place over on our coast, but to many folk they're still out of the ordinary.
Walking back to the car we passed a field margin where a wild bird crop was being enjoyed by some Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows and looking closely we found a couple of Bramblings and finally got our pic in the gathering gloom (#173).
A quick look over at Sammy's Point gave us a circling Ring Ouzel that didn't drop in the end but turned back towards the coast. Still no Short Eared Owls for us again. 
We said earlier we'd found the best bird of the weekend - well it wasn't quite true as once we were back at our digs news broke that someone had found and photographed a Red Flanked Bluetail but hadn't told anyone until they'd got home and identified their photo in the evening.
Monday morning saw us seawatching again. Once again there wasn't much happening and the hide cleared out and the relief palpable when news broke that the Red Flanked Bluetail had been refound. Sadly it was refound an hours walk across the breach and an hour back which we didn't have time for so we weren't able to go to see it.
We did have a quick look at the Canal Scrape where there the Jack Snipe was almost invisible but a Dunlin made up for it by being very showy.
Not much at Sammy's Point apart from a Brown Lipped Banded Snail taking the long way round crossing a femce via a stile rather than just slithering underneath it. weird or what!
A great trip, 99 species seen, an embarrassing gap on our Life List filled, four year birds and photos for our Challenge tally. 
LCV had another full day with us before he had to go home so we had an afternoon dog walk up country to see if we could find him a Dipper and us a Grey Wagtail for our Challenges. It wasn't long before the River Brock gave up its secrets, a Grey Wagtail (#174) for us and an unphotographable Dipper for him.
The warm weather brought out a few Buzzards overhead too.
Across on the hills where Buzzards aren't welcome Heather burning was being carried out to provide new growth for the Red Grouse - looks a bit close to the woodland for our liking, will have to go back and see if the trees have been damaged. It wouldn't surprise us as trees can provide cover for predators of Red Gouse, their chicks and eggs so aren't really tolerated. The grouse moors are devoid of wildlife except that which doesn't affect the grouse in any way and can tolerate the regular burning, which means very little!
Nipping upstream to another site along the river gave us much better views of a Dipper, it even gave a bit of song for us.
Finally LCV's last morning with us saw us back at Hesketh Out Marsh to see if we could find the American Wigeons - no joy, the high tides over the weekend had pushed most of the birds off the marsh and filled the pools with water so there was little mud for the wading birds so it was a bit of a disappointing visit really - well it just means we'll have to go again before too long.

A great weekend and mega thanks to LCV for his company and all the driving, we'll deffo be doing it all again next October.

Where to next? We hope to get out on Safari somewhere towards the end of next week.

In the meantime let us know who's been migrating through your outback.



Sunday, 30 September 2018

More twitching tales and a safari to the Southside

The Safari has been a bit pre-occupied tidying up and decluttering in advance of the Base Camp move to get out as often as we would have liked but when a couple of opportunities for a twitch came up we were able to take them.
We were a little disappointed to have dipped all the Leach's Petrels during the gales the week before last so when news of a flurry of late stragglers in the form of Grey Phalaropes turning up all over the country started to appear on social media it was inevitable one would appear not too far away. So when the news broke that one was showing well at Newton Marsh just this side of Preston off we went - we'd seen pics of others showing well on Twitter and F/B which more or less meant crawling into the camera lens! This one wasn't so obliging but at least it wasn't at the same range as the Semi Palmated Sandpiper we'd seen a couple of weeks previously. A great bird to see again, our last one being in 2010 and again superb scope views but just a little too distant for great pics.
A lovely little bird that just wouldn't keep still, frantically picking flies of the surface of the water or occasionally dipping its bill right under for some morsel or other. It spent most of it's time on the far side of the little island but when it flew further down the pool and in to a clump of rushes it  was time to say bye to the fair throng of local birders and head back to Base Camp for more tidying up. It brought our tally for the year to 180 and our Photo Year List Challenge up to 163, a great little 'bonus bird' that was never on the 'radar' - we're still being stuffed by the front runners who are now about 100 species ahead.
But that afternoon news broke of another lost waif, this time just down the road at Marton Mere. A couple of juvenile Black Terns had been reported for a couple of days until one had been re-identified as a juvenile White Winged Black Tern. Fortunately it was still present the following day and in the late afternoon we were able to nip down for an hour for a shuffy. It ranged widely about the mere often hugging the Yellow Water Lily beds on the far side and then disappearing for extended lengths of time when it was discovered to have settled on the lilies. Take your eye off it for a moment and it was lost, its seemingly languid flight being surprisingly fast. 
On the odd time it did come into range we snapped away but only really got one rubbishy pic that shows hints of the diagnostic white rump and the lack of  smudgy neck mark.
Another one well off the radar coming in at 181, PYLC #164, and the first we've seen anywhere in the world in this plumage and the first since the adult we found at the same place in the summer of '93.
It was being reported as being 'not quite right' and some observers say and posting pics of it drooping one of its wings when at rest but it did seem to be flying OK and picking plenty of invertebrates from the water surface. But right at the last of the light we managed this fuzzy pic when it settled on some reeds not too far in front of us.
It shows the left wing drooping while the right wings looks fine and also the left leg is held up and might not be quite as bright red as the right one. In lots of our distant out of focus and too fuzzy to show you shots you can see both legs dangling, whether they do that habitually using their feet as extra air brakes we don't know but it could also be a symptom of an unseen injury/illness. Whatever it might have been the bird was still there the following morning but we were unable to better our rubbishy pics and the following day there was no sign so we assume it was fit enough to continue on its migration.
Also passing overhead but slowing and not dropping on to the water were two fresh in from Iceland Whooper Swans, our first of the year here (MMLNR #81) - really can't believe we didn't see any in the early part of the year! And had we stayed but a few more minutes we would have seen an Otter too.
With summer giving way to autumn and the weather following suit there has been nothing of real note on Patch 1 or in the garden at Base Camp. Until one morning in the week when we heard the loud calls of an agitated Peregrine. Looking out of the bedroom window we could see two crows on its favourite ledge but looking closely they looked big and we thought we heard a Raven cronking. Grabbing the bins a proper look revealed they were indeed two Ravens and the Peregrine was sat above them on the comms masts giving it hell - really unhappy with them in its space.
We'll miss sights like this from the bedroom window when Base Camp gets moved but no doubt there'll be other equally awesome wildlife sights to be had at the new Base Camp- we just don't know what they'll be yet...or where!
And so to Friday when we picked up GB and CR early doors and set off to meet JG at Lunt Meadows down on our childhood birding grounds over on the south side of the Ribble. We arrived first and the short wait in the car park ave us a few Jays flying over to and fro to collect or bringing back Acorns to cache for the winter. Recently arrived Pink Footed Geese could be heard murmuring in conversation the distant fields and Lapwings called their wheezy calls from the wetland between us and the geese. A serene and peaceful morning but just half a dozen miles from one of Britain's busiest city centres.
Annoyingly we couldn't get a pic of any of the Jays for our challenge - becoming a bit of a bogey bird in that respect but while looking up at one flying by we saw a weird object high up in one of the Willow trees around the edge of the car park.
A something we don't recall ever seeing before which we've discovered is Mossy Willow Catkin Gall and now we know that we're quite certain we've never come across one before never having heard of them until now. They are probably a viral infection of a catkin (caused by agents unknown) and are often green rather than black as in this case.
It was a glorious day with warm sunshine and light winds and no appreciable recent rain meant dry footpaths too. However looking at the first pool into the harsh morning light wasn't so good. But it did highlight all the spiders' gossamer trails lain across the rushes over night. The pic doesn't really do the scene justice, there were hundreds of them draped across the fronds shimmering in the gentle breeze when the light caught them.
Turning round to view the pool behind us the light was much better. Here we could see the vivid colours of the Lapwings, rue the eclipse plumage of the Teal and pick out the nuances of the speckley Ruffs.
All looking sup-duper in the bright light. 
Something disturbed the Pink Footed Geese from the fields and all of a sudden their quiet conversation became louder and more intense as the flock took to the air - what a sight, about a thousand of them, but more than a sight what a sound as they wheeled round splitting in to sub-flocks and going off in different directions - truly wonderful.
Just a few of them, couldn't fit the whole flock in the frame
Wandering on we had a look at the next pool but it was quiet there, just a handful of Mallards and a couple of snoozing Teal. The main attraction here, often very showy Short Eared Owls and Stonechats haven't arrived for the winter yet and there was no sign of any Roe Deer either, the vegetation is still a bit too summery for them to able to be easily seen yet. GB got cracking views of what sounds like a pristine Small Copper butterfly and we caught a glimpse of a Weasel darting between clumps of reeds below the hide - no amount of 'pishing' would entice it to break cover unfortunately. Far easier to photograph were these showy and stationary mushrooms sitting among the grass at the side of the steps up to the screen.
One we ought to know the name of but honestly can't remember it just now
As we were moving on to the next screen we heard the call of a Spotted Redshank and swinging round quickly and scanning with the bins caught sight of a small wader dropping on to one of the pools we viewed earlier. As luck would have it, or rather ill-luck, it was located on the one looking into the sun and was very flighty and we didn't manage a pic before it was up and away. We watched it go high to the north but it swung round and came back, we didn't see where it landed but hoped it was on the well lit pool, a long look there didn't find it and when it called again the sound came from the same place as before. We were able to get just a couple of pics of it as went up and away again this time never to be seen again.
Spotted Redshank (182, PYLC #165)
Going...going...gone
And with that so were we - back to the cars for a bite to eat. At the car park it was all go with the Jays again with no less than eight being seen in quick succession heading northwards towards the favoured Oak trees. Yet again we failed to get the camera on to any of them - bogey birds indeed!
Butties scoffed it was time to hit the road to another Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve Mere Sands Wood to see what we could find there.
At the first hide there was a good selection of waterfowl, all now in their eclipse plumage now. But scanning around we noticed a goose on the spit showing a lot of white and closer inspection showed there to be four Egyptian Geese (183, PYLC #166) snoozing away up there.
The fourth one is out of frame mostly concealed behind a clump of vegetation to the left of the left-hand bird.
With not a lot happening and no sign of any Kingfishers around this part of the reserve, and none mentioned by other visitors, we moved on.
The light at the hide in the bottom  corner was much better, once again showing the Lapwings off superbly.
A drake Shoveler swan into view, of all the eclipse ducks these are probably the 'best' looking but that big orange eye gives them a worried look.
Again no Kingfishers for us and similarly so at the next hide, where other birders were already waiting for one to turn up and use the strategically placed perches. No such luck for us but one of the brders pointed out a Green Sandpiper he'd seen earlier when it came back out onto the open. We were pleased to get better pics of this seldom seen (by us) bird in much better light and far far closer than on our last visit here. We snapped away with gay abandon as they say.
Is the dark blob by its feet a dead vole???
Nearby a pair of Teal dozed the afternoon away.
On the way to the next hide there's  an open viewing platform overlooking a smaller pool, here we stopped in the hope of seeing some dragonflies whizzing around in the afternoon warmth but instead our attention was taken by a shoal of fish right below us. Lookin closely at them it would appear that the dorsal and ventral fins are just about level with each other and the one eating a leaf from a water plant seems to have an overhanging top lip these features would make at least some of them Roach.
A few were a little bigger than the rest maybe approaching 6-7 inches (15 - 18cm) long.
The keen ex-fisherman's eyes of GB picked out the striped back of a rather larger Perch lurking below the shoal, although the Roach weren't that bothered about its presence.
As we approached the last hide we told of lots of Migrant Hawkers at which info CR sped off passing a lovely cluster of Fly Agaric mushrooms (or are they toadstools?) in various stages of openness.
Once inside the hide we did see some Migrant Hawker dragonflies as well as at least one Brown Hawker and a couple of unidentified but probably Blue Tailed Damselfies
With a lot of luck one of the Migrant Hawkers settled in a hover in an open patch in the reeds long enough for us to get our best ever pic of a dragonfly in flight by a long way - still not perfect but we're well chuffed with it.
They rarely settled and when they did this was  often a 'good' view
A quality end to a perfect day on safari with great mates...but still no Jays submitted to the SD card despite several sightings and lots heard squawking  - getting beyond a joke now...

Where to next? Another further flung safari beckons.

In the meantime lets us know who's not allowing themselves to be photographed in your outback.